A ‘ruthless’ conman was caught on CCTV as he arrived at a champion dancer’s flat before murdering him with the poison drug ‘devil’s breath’.
Joel Osei, 25, and his ‘Romanian goddess’ girlfriend Diana Cristea, 19, laced Adrian Murphy’s Coca-Cola with deadly Scopolamine at his luxury riverside apartment in Battersea.
The lovers then tried to use the 43-year-old’s credit card to buy £62,000 worth of diamonds from a New York jewellers.
Just four days earlier a 40-year-old man was rushed to hospital and narrowly survived after Osei administered Scopolamine to him at his flat in Walthamstow, east London.
Osei and Cristea had used profiles on gay dating app Grindr to befriend the men as part of their scheme.
They were both arrested on suspicion of murder after the body of Mr Murphy was found in a 17th-floor flat in Battersea, south-west London, on June 4 2019.
Stills taken from CCTV footage show Osei both on the way to Mr Murphy’s apartment and then later leaving with a bag of his belongings.
Speaking after the trial, police said Osei and Cristea used Grindr in the belief their victims would not want to report any wrongdoing because of the ‘intimate and personal’ nature of the meetings.
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A ‘ruthless’ conman was caught on CCTV as he arrived at a champion dancer’s flat before murdering him with the poison drug ‘devil’s breath’
Joel Osei (left), 25, and his ‘Romanian goddess’ girlfriend Diana Cristea (right), 19, laced Adrian Murphy’s Coca-Cola with deadly Scopolamine at his luxury riverside apartment in Battersea
The lovers then tried to use the 43-year-old’s credit card to buy £62,000 worth of diamonds from a New York jewellers. Pictured: Dancer Mr Murphy
Both Osei and Cristea were also accused of one count of administering a poison or noxious substance so as to endanger life, two counts of theft and eight counts of fraud.
Their conviction is believed to be the first in the UK for scopolamine-related homicide.
Scopolamine, known as ‘The Devil’s Breath’, is popular with robbers and rapists in South America and Columbia who use it to incapacitate their victims, jurors heard.
The jury returned a majority verdict on all counts for both defendants on Friday.
Osei admitted manslaughter but was convicted of murder.
He also pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of administering poison, with intent to injure, aggrieve, or annoy, and seven counts of fraud.
He denied two counts of theft.
Cristea admitted one count of fraud and two counts of handling stolen goods, but was also convicted on all counts.
Mr Murphy, a seven-time All-Ireland Irish dancing champion, produced and choreographed numerous Irish dance shows, including Feet of Fire, and FireDance The Show.
Another CCTV still later shows Osei leaving with a Louis Vuitton holdall filled with Mr Murphy’s belongings
Mr Murphy was found dead in his flat on June 4 of last year. He was laid to rest in his native County Kilkenny beside his parents on July 17
He was laid to rest in his native County Kilkenny beside his parents on July 17 last year.
Osei and Cristea poisoned Mr Murphy by lacing his Coca-Cola with the ‘devil’s breath’ drug.
Cristea burst into tears and Osei stared at the floor when the verdict was announced.
Colombian ‘Devil’s Breath’ date rape drug
Scopolamine, also known as hyoscine or ‘Devil’s Breath’, is made from Borrachero trees in Colombia, and used throughout the country to aid sexual predators and robbers.
The odourless powder is blown into people’s faces, which once inhaled can cause victims to lose their memory, free will, and in high enough doses, can even kill. It has been described as ‘the most dangerous drug in the world’.
In the past two years cases have been reported in Spain, France and the US. But last month, UK actor Robert Lindsay told Met Police a young woman he knew was attacked with a substance bearing a chilling resemblance to ‘Devil’s Breath’ outside a London night club.
The drug, also referred to as Burundanga in its native Colombia, is almost impossible to detect, as it disappears from the blood stream in two to six hours and can only be found in urine samples within 12.
This makes it extremely difficult for victims to prove they have been given it – as they don’t remember anything and it’s untraceable in their system.
Mr Justice William Davis told the jury: ‘The community is very very grateful to you; it is a huge task.
‘That’s your job done it’s not my job over yet.
‘I think given the circumstances the best thing I can do is say thank you again very much indeed, you are now free to go.’
The couple had a ‘tempestuous’ relationship but regarded eachother as soul-mates with ‘big plans for their future’, the court heard.
Crispin Aylett, prosecuting, said: ‘Even after everything that had happened and even after Osei had been charged and remanded in custody, he was writing to her and addressing her as ‘My Romanian Goddess Wife’.
‘He signed another letter to her as ‘Your Husband & King’.
‘For her part, Ms Cristea wrote to Mr Osei telling him ‘you are my half that I found. Never in my life can get on so well and love anyone this much’.
Mr Aylett said they were ‘a pair of ruthless grifters, scammers looking to make easy money at whatever cost to their victims.
‘Each of the two victims had met up with Joel Osei, each of them had been drugged and from each of them Osei had stolen whatever he could find for Diana Cristea to sell.’
The unnamed 40-year-old man had met someone on Grindr calling himself ‘Remy’ and agreed to pay for an Uber to collect him from an address in Tottenham on May 30, 2019.
Mr Aylett said: ‘When Remy arrived, the man was disappointed to find that his guest did not seem to be particularly interested in sex.
‘After a while the man went to the lavatory. When he came back, he found Remy had poured him a drink.
‘Thinking it was orange juice from his own fridge the man drank it.
‘The next thing the victim remembers is feeling breathless and, as he told the police: ‘My head felt like this darkness coming over me’ then he passed out.
‘When he came round, he was in hospital.’
Giving evidence the man said: ‘Everything started going fuzzy. My legs felt like they had been injected with solid rock or something.’
He said: ‘All I remember is saying something along the lines of what’s happening – then passing out, waking up, and a doctor telling me ‘you’re lucky to be alive.’
‘I was absolutely out of it, I didn’t know I was saying – I was speaking gibberish.’
After the man was discharged from hospital he discovered that Osei had helped himself to property worth about £2,000: a wallet, bank cards, sun-glasses, two laptops and other devices including his Alexa and Sony Playstation.
Osei was picked up by CCTV cameras at the luxury apartment block in Lombard Wharf, Battersea, on June 1 where Mr Murphy was staying.
Osei and Cristea poisoned Mr Murphy by lacing his Coca-Cola with the ‘devil’s breath’ drug
He entered the building and took the lift to the 17th floor at 22:26 and was again picked up by CCTV as he left the flat with a Louis Vuitton holdall.
Cristea had been ‘following the events closely’ as she maintained contact with Osei throughout the night.
Mr Murphy’s best friend, who owned the apartment in Battersea, found him lying motionless on the bed there on June 4.
‘It was obvious that he was dead – and that he had been dead for some time,’ said Mr Aylett.
‘Again it soon became apparent that things had been stolen: a Louis Vuitton bag and wallet. A laptop was also missing. Again the overall value was about £2,000.’
‘In the course of the post-mortem examination of Adrian Murphy’s body, blood and urine samples were taken. From these, the toxicologist identified traces of a drug called Scopolamine.
‘When the police searched Mr Murphy’s flat, among the items seized were a can of Coca-Cola and a glass tumbler. Both were found to have traces of Scopolamine.
Cristea took photos of Mr Murphy’s Louis Vuitton bag before advertising it for sale online for £300 along with five Dolce & Gabbana belts for £200.
The couple booked a hotel on the same day through Booking.com for £180 and spent $2,995 on software from Chief Architects using Mr Murphy’s card.
They stayed on and off at the Simpson Street hotel during the following days while they made several purchases on different cards belonging to Mr Murphy.
The couple also tried to buy $80,049 (£61,000) worth of stones from Padmavati Diamonds Company based in New York using Mr Murphy’s Barclays Delaware MasterCard.
Osei told jurors Cristea knew nothing about the plan and never mentioned the use of Scopolamine to Cristea.
Osei said: ‘She was doing it for me. What I’m saying is that she wasn’t in on it. She was angry with the method.
The couple also tried to buy $80,049 (£61,000) worth of stones from Padmavati Diamonds Company based in New York using Mr Murphy’s Barclays Delaware MasterCard
Following the verdict, Mr Murphy’s brother, Robert Murphy, paid tribute to the ‘inspirational Irishman’ and said his death had ‘left a huge void’ within the family. Pictured: Mr Murphy in the US
‘I told her that the guy had been knocked out and I took his stuff.’
The judge told the pair: ‘I’m not going to sentence you today.
‘The sentence for murder is fixed by law in your case Mr Osei that is a sentence for life.
‘In your case Ms Cristea it is what is a case of detention at Her Majesty’s pleasure, which is a life sentence.’
Following the verdict, Mr Murphy’s brother, Robert Murphy, paid tribute to the ‘inspirational Irishman’ and said his death had ‘left a huge void’ within the family.
‘The world is full of sameness, but this could not be said of our brother Adrian,’ he said in a statement.
‘Adrian brought the love and art of dance to thousands of young people all over the world.
‘He made so many loyal friends who are so sad at his untimely passing as he was an inspirational Irishman, who was a gifted dancer and choreographer.
‘He was also very funny and made everyone laugh at his hilarious stories. He had the gift of bringing people together.
‘Our family is heartbroken that Adrian is no longer with us.
‘He has left a huge void within our family and the fact we can no longer see or hear from him makes his absence felt all the more.
‘Adrian loved his hometown of Kilkenny and, although he was a regular world traveller, he never missed an opportunity to return to his family and friends.
‘Adrian’s legacy is that of a hero and hopefully his tragic death has stopped this happening to any other innocent victim.
‘He is now dancing amongst the stars. May he rest in peace.’
Osei, of Kerswell Close, Seven Sisters, admitted manslaughter, seven counts of fraud, and an alternative charge of administering poison, with intent to injure, aggrieve, or annoy any other person.
Cristea, of Springfield Road, Tottenham Hale, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and two counts of handling stolen goods.
As well as being convicted of murder, the pair were also found guilty of poisoning by administering a substance to endanger life, two counts of theft and eight counts of fraud by a unanimous jury verdict.
Both will appear at the Old Bailey for sentence on 14 December.
Detective Chief Inspector Robert Pack welcomed the closing of the ‘protracted and complex’ case.
Speaking outside court following the verdict, he said: ‘Osei and Cristea have been described by the prosecution as a pair of ruthless grifters, and to my mind that is correct.
‘In a callous and calculated plan to make what they thought was easy money, they targeted unsuspecting men via dating sites.
‘They selected their victims using this method in the belief that the men would be unlikely to report the matter, due to the intimate and personal nature of the meetings.
Mr Park added that the conviction appeared to be the first for scopolamine-related homicide in the UK.
Croydon Crown Court (pictured) heard that paramedics had attended to another man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, several days earlier, who had also been drugged and robbed by Osei